An Interview with Steve Brown of The End Machine

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Steve Brown (Drums)

The infectious energy, unmistakable laugh, and destructiveness behind the drum kit prompted a double take from End Machine leader George Lynch during a recording session.

After all, Lynch played alongside the notoriously vibrant “Wild” Mick Brown for over four decades, so the correlation was inevitable – especially when Brown’s replacement on the sticks is none other than his younger brother.

While Mick enjoys retirement life amid the scorching Arizona heat, his brother, dubbed “Mild” Steve Brown by Lynch, captured his exuberance and thunderous drum fills on The End Machine: Phase 2.

Brown, the youngest of a distinguished quartet that includes Jeff Pilson, Robert Mason, and Lynch, is a music industry veteran in his own right. Whether he’s gigging with his band of 21 years, Oleander, churning out studio work, or filling the mammoth-sized shoes of his brother in his latest venture, Brown has managed to weather the storm of an ever-changing musical landscape.

For Brown, his involvement in The End Machine: Phase 2 began with a text message from Lynch last summer. Ever the technician, Brown recorded his drum parts in a matter of days at Pilsound Studios; his tone and tenacity eerily reminiscent of his brother on the early Dokken records. The highly anticipated follow-up, expected to rekindle the classic, hard-hitting sound of the early 1980s, is to be released on April 9th.

I recently sat down with Brown to discuss, among other things, his extensive studio work, history with Lynch and Pilson, recording The End Machine: Phase 2, his relationship with Ronnie Montrose, and more.

Andrew:
What was it about playing drums that you were drawn to?

Steve:
Well, I started playing when I was about 14; up until that point, I played trumpet in school. For me, the thing that did it was when I went to see my brother play – it was Dio, Y&T, and Dokken. Dio was on the Last In Line Tour, I think; it was New Years Eve at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. I looked at that trumpet, and I looked at the crowd and the screaming girls, and went, “I am never gonna get laid playing this trumpet.” After that show, that thing never saw the light of day again. [Laughs]. My parents talked to Mick, and he said, “Wow, you’re going to start playing drums?” So, that was the moment for me that really cemented everything. There was nothing else that I wanted to do, and I had kind of a roadmap to do that successfully.

Andrew:
Aside from your brother, who were some of your most integral musical influences?

Steve:
Since [Mick] was around that L.A. scene and I was 13-14 [years old], Frankie Benali from Quiet Riot and Vinnie Appice was also huge for me; I loved all the Dio stuff and then got to see him in person. Later on, of course, it became John Bonham, and I went through my Neil Peart phase – holed up in my little drum room at my parents’ house for a year just playing Hemispheres. So, there were the obvious things along the way, but without a doubt, my brother has been the biggest influence as far as playing and looking up to somebody. I’m 50 years old, and it’s still like that!

Andrew:
With Mick no longer in the music industry, I have to imagine he’s been your biggest supporter, resource, and mentor.

Steve:
Over the years, when [Mick] would have to do something else, I would get a call from Don Dokken or some of the guys, and for one reason or another, it just never panned out to be a permanent thing. However, when he had to go back out with Ted Nugent, he was also playing with Ronnie Montrose at the time. Ronnie was really bummed because he loved my brother, so Mick said, “Hey, why don’t you call my brother? He lives near you.” So, he did, and that’s kind of how that torched got passed over time. But The End Machine has really been the first time where I took his shoes and made something new with it. [Mick is] so excited about it, and it’s been really fun for him to sit back and call and go, “How was the video shoot? Ha-ha-ha! Did it take all fucking day? Ha-ha-ha!” All the things he disliked about everything. [Laughs].

Steve’s brother, “Wild” Mick Brown.

Andrew:
Drummers are typically known for having unique personalities and providing an energetic dynamic to a band. You’ve already been dubbed “Mild” Steve Brown, but compared to your brother, how would you describe yourself?

Steve:
I went down to his place in Arizona, we got to hang out for the week, and I met all of his friends. His friends said, “Oh my God…there’s two of you!” We both have the same energy and personality. When I was down recording, George peeked in for a few minutes and laughed because he said it was like having Mick in the room. He said, “It’s like he’s here the whole time, and I keep forgetting it’s you!”

Andrew:
You’ve been in the band Oleander for the better part of two decades, even performing at the Gravity Games on NBC. How did you initially break into the fold?

Steve:
Those guys are also from Sacramento, and I’m still in that band. They’d had drummer problems for a long time, and since we were in the same town and all knew each other, they would call me every once in a while and say, “Hey, we need you to come to the studio.” Then they called and said, “Hey, can you learn our whole first record and a couple of other songs and meet us in Providence, Rhode Island, for a T.V. show tomorrow?” Those guys have kind of always been home base. They played at Woodstock ’99 and had a No. 1 hit for a long time with the song “Why I’m Here,” and that record really took off.

The Gravity Games was the first big televised thing that I did, although we’ve never been able to find footage. I would love to find that someday. That was the Gravity Games where Carey Hart did the first backflip.

Andrew:
You’ve been called upon for extensive studio work over the years, most notably with Michael Rosen [Joe Satriani, Eddie Money, Santana] and Brian Wheat [Tesla]. The documentary Hired Guns did an excellent job highlighting the fluidity of the profession, but talk about your experience as a studio musician.

Steve:
That movie kind of nailed it. When that came out, and I watched it, it really did have a big impact on me. Really, what happened to me earlier in the 2000s was that I had like 5 of 6 producers that I’d worked with, so the phone was ringing because record labels still had big budgets. So, I got to do a lot of other people’s records. I was always the guy that could show up, grasp what they needed out of me, and do it on the fly. That was one thing where Mick and I differed; I was doing so many different things all at the same time, and he was playing around with the same people mostly. Until he played with Ronnie Montrose and Ted Nugent, they were the only bands he was in that wasn’t Dokken. So, our experiences were vastly different. After a while, once the big budgets went away in the 2000s, my phone stopped ringing. I worked in radio for a little bit, which was really no fun. [Laughs]. I persevered through that, and the Oleander thing always kept everything moving; that’s always been a home base for me.

I played on three of four of Frank Hannon’s [Tesla guitarist] solo records, and I’ve done a ton of stuff with Brian. Troy Luccketta moved to Nashville around 2006, and those guys wanted to write a new record, so I got to do the pre-production stuff on Forever More, and that was a thrill. Those guys are really good friends; as a matter of fact, I give [Tesla frontman] Jeff Keith’s son, Joe Bob, drum lessons.

Steve Brown (Drums)

Andrew:
George and Mick have known each other for over four decades. What has your relationship been like with George over the years?

Steve:
It was probably a lot more when I was younger. When Mick and George first moved down to L.A., they would probably scrounge up enough gas money to come home for a few days so they could eat. When I was younger, George was around a little bit more. Then, over the years – especially in the Dokken years – we would see a lot of each other. He moved back to the small town where I grew up, somewhere in the 90s, and we ran into each other and talked about doing a record, which turned out to be Lynch Mob’s Smoke This. My relationship with George has always been good. We’d run into each other at Namm shows in L.A., and I’d always send him a note here and there to say hi.

Andrew:
George continues to churn out quality records every year. It seems there is never a shortage of ideas.

Steve:
Man, that guy is never not full of ideas. I’ve never seen anyone that has so many facets to his playing, but he’s got like 8 records out this year with 8 different bands! I’m like, “You did all that stuff and wrote all these songs for this record in a pandemic!” It never ceases to shock me. Even when I was talking to Mick, I said, “Jeff and George called, and they’re starting to work on some ideas.” Mick said, “It’s not gonna take George very long to come up with an album, so get prepared.” That’s kind of the thing that’s most surprising; he’s always in motion.

Andrew:
So, how did you ultimately get involved with The End Machine: Phase 2 project?

Steve:
Somewhere around June, things were a little slow, but I had some studio things I was doing. Then, I started thinking, “If I didn’t get to do this again, it’s fine. I did well, and everything’s cool.” Then, the very next day, my phone dinged, and it was from “Maybe: George Lynch.” It said, “Do you wanna make a record with Jeff Pilson and me?” I was like, “Of course.” Usually, when I get a call, it’s for that day or the day after, so I’m ready to go. I’m like, “Okay, is it this weekend?” They said, “No, we got a little time.” Then, Jeff, George, and I had a conference call or two and talked it out. George was curious and asked, “What’s your style? Where did you go musically?” I’m sure he wasn’t sitting down listening to Oleander records. So, George sent me a message one day and said, “Can you send me some stuff that you played on.” I sent him like ten YouTube things, and I’m like, “I can keep going,” and he’s like, “No, that’s good.” So, I think they felt I was at least capable of at least putting something together. I don’t think they had an idea that Mick and I would be such similar players until it really came down to it.

The End Machine – Phase 2 (2021)

Andrew:
How long was the actual recording process?

Steve:
I went down to Jeff’s, where he has Pilsound Studios, and recorded from the first of November until the third. I had blocked out a week, thinking it would take a week. I had almost all the songs they had sent me. We had kind of went back and forth with the songs, and they’d change here and there. I went through everything and had a week or two to get it together and go through all of the songs. In my head, I’m thinking, “Well, what if they don’t want it like this?” It’s hard to gauge when you’re by yourself, you know? I’m like, “What if they didn’t want it that way?” I basically had three versions of every song. So, I guess you could say I was a little nervous on my drive down to L.A. I would talk to my brother, and that’s when he would say, “Oh God, dude. Jeff’s gonna shit when he hears you play!”

Sure enough, I got down there on a Sunday night around 5:30, and by 7:00, we were set up and already had a song done. The drum parts took a couple of days; we would knock out 4 or 5 and listen to them and go, “All right, great.” On the third day, I did background vocals and some shakers and stuff like that. Then I looked at the clock, and I’m like, “I could be home by like 9:00.” We just had an absolute blast doing it. I’ve always loved Jeff, and my parents are in love with Jeff. It’s always like, “Okay, it was good to see ya, Mick. Where’s Jeff?” I give him a bad time about it. I go, “Jeff, if Mick and I fell off a cliff, you would still be their favorite son!

Andrew:
Robert Mason offers tremendous range as a frontman and appears to be an ideal fit for this project. Had you worked with him previously?

Steve:
Yeah, man. He is such a great singer. I loved the first End Machine record and what he did, but he went far beyond that record in his range and dynamic nature. Everything was just so focused. The funny thing about Robert is that we only met once when he was doing Lynch Mob, and we met at a show probably for two minutes; he didn’t remember. He had only been in the band, like, a couple of months, and they were doing a run before the second Lynch Mob album came out. I didn’t see him again until a couple of weeks ago when we filmed the video. Everyone that I’ve talked to in the industry, whenever [Robert’s] name comes up, there’s always good things to say about him.

Andrew:
The first End Machine record had more of a bluesy feel to it, whereas the material on this record appears to be of the harder-hitting, Classic Rock mold. How would you compare the two albums?

Steve:
I think the difference between the two is there are a lot more melodic songs on this album. There’s some bluesy stuff, too, but I think George really captured a lot of really cool elements from the first Lynch Mob record. But mainly, I hear a lot of Tooth and Nail – a lot of the first three Dokken records. There’s a tune that reminds me of something off of Breaking the Chains, but a lot of it reminds me of that fire of Tooth and Nail. Then, Under Lock and Key had more commercial, melodic songs on it, so it really reminded me of that, too.

Andrew:
What were some of the challenges of recording a record in the middle of a pandemic?

Steve:
Well, I only saw George Lynch once in person. I think Jeff was the only person who saw everyone. However, when I was down in November, George peeked in for a minute and delivered some drums that I was gonna use on an acoustic track. He had these antique drums, and he wanted to put them on a track. Jeff told me that was the first time that they had been in a room together since April. I think Jeff and George live only 5 or 10 minutes from each other. Jeff wrote with Robert through Zoom, and then Robert flew up to do his vocals, and they worked together in person. But I think Jeff and George did a lot of it through Jeff’s studio and had George record it as if he was in the room and they would Zoom with each other. For me, it was nothing new because a lot of times, I’m disconnected from that whole process. I’m usually the guy who comes in last and goes, “Okay, what do you guys want?”

The End Machine

Andrew:
You were a national touring drummer for the Ronnie Montrose Band. My understanding is that he once said you were the Keith Moon to his Pete Townshend. Talk a bit about the bond you shared and Ronnie’s impact on your career.

Steve:
We filmed a live DVD a few months before he died. While they were mixing the DVD, a friend of his in San Francisco had a studio that a theater in it — a small, 30-seat theater. And while we were watching some of the things, [Ronnie] jumped out of his chair, came over to me, and said, “I’m Pete Townshend, and you’re Keith Moon!” I told Mick that, and he thought it was the greatest thing ever.

I realized after he had died, when we did some of the tribute shows – we did the big one in San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom – the vast amount of musicians who had been in his band; Eric Singer from KISS, Jimmy DeGrasso; all my drum heroes in the same room. We all sat down for dinner one night, and everyone was telling Ronnie stories. I would tell a story, and everyone would look at me like I was crazy because I would tell some heartfelt story, and they were talking about what a ballbuster he was! You know, “Shut up, get back in and rehearse for three hours.” I was telling them we would go to rehearse for a tour or a run, and Ronnie would say, “Okay, we’re gonna get together for three days.” Well, the first day was just him getting his gear into wherever we were going to rehearse at, and then we’d eat. The second day was him plugging his gear in, playing a couple of chords, and then we’d eat. And then the third day, we would play half of “Bad Motor Scooter,” and that was it. These guys were out of their minds because they were going, “He used to just work us to death.” My relationship with him and Mick’s relationship with him was very similar because we’re the same guy almost. Every time Ronnie would get mad about something, it made me laugh because he was funny! He would really be pissed at me for something – one night, I cut him off on “Voyager” or something before his guitar solo was over and thought, “I’m going to be on the next plane home.” And he started in on me, and while he was going, I started laughing. Finally, I looked at him and said, “Hey man, I’m sorry that I didn’t pay attention to the record you were making when I was four!” That usually ended the argument. [Laughs].

I learned a tremendous amount from him musically. He was just at a different point in his life and enjoyed having a band and playing. That was the importance at that point. We were very close; I mean, I stayed at his house and helped him do stuff the last two weeks of his life. It was a huge part of my life and really difficult to get over. All the times I stayed with him, we never talked about music; it was never about anything musical. It was all about life and what we can make funny next. A lot of the shows we did, especially on the East coast, we did it in a van. I drove it because I was the only one not drinking at the time.

Andrew:
Wow, you’ve enjoyed quite the wild ride in this business. Given your versatility and wide-ranging studio work, you’ve played with a vast assortment of musicians.

Steve:
It’s the funniest thing; someone told me a long time ago, “If you stick around long enough, you get to play with everybody.” Even now, when I was getting ready to record, I told Jeff, “You know, I always knew one day this would happen. But I would have thought it was because my brother was in a wheelchair, not because he’s riding his motorcycle in Arizona!”

Andrew:
Speaking of Mick, how is he doing these days?

Steve:
He’s in the best space I’ve ever seen. My wife and I went out a year ago and hung out with him for a week. I thought he would have missed it by this time, but he was happy as a clam. He was like, “Nope, just wanna ride my bike, hang out with my friends, and be on my own schedule.” As he would say, “If I wanna take a nap at 1:00 in the afternoon, I take a nap!” It’s shocking to think; Jeff and George both were like, “I didn’t think that would ever happen.”

Andrew:
What’s next on your docket, Steve?

Steve:
I teach at a little music school here in my hometown of Roseville, CA. I like to do the in-person stuff, but this year kind of killed it. But I still do that, and as I’m talking to you, I’m sitting at the Oleander studio. We’re trying to record a couple of singles and some B-side stuff that didn’t make it on prior records. Songs that we really liked that some person from a record company told us no on. We’re like, “Well, there’s no one to tell us no, now!” And J.K. Northrup, who was in this band Northup when I was growing up, has a studio and does a lot of recordings for Melodic Rock Records. So, I played on a few of those, and he keeps me busy. But, other than that, it’s just kind of riding this thing out and seeing where it goes.

Steve Brown (Drums)

Interested in learning more about The End Machine? Check out the link below:

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vinylwritermusic.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

Published by Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s Trunk Nation with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.

2 thoughts on “An Interview with Steve Brown of The End Machine

  1. Man , great article! I’m happy for you! The songs I’ve heard ROCK!

    Steve Brown also was my Coach in Weekend Warriors! I felt a connection right away! I’m sure everyone does with him! Positivity and energy just flows out of him! One of my best experiences in my musical Hobby! I’ve seen him play in a couple projects and he always delivers! Thanks Steve! You make a difference! Keep Rockin’ man!

    Bryon.

    1. Thanks for reading! Steve is a genuine guy and we love the new music with The End Machine!

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